And the fish that do show can be massive.
Yellowfin tuna in Australia in summer run 55 to 220 pounds, says McGlashan. Bluefin range from 100 to 330 pounds.
Off the Atlantic Seaboard, expect longfin (albacore) to run 25 to 50 pounds in fall. Yellowfin weigh up to 80 pounds regularly. Bluefin nearshore average 25 to 80 pounds, but the large “nomadic” bluefin offshore surpass 200 pounds up to true giants.
For tackle, Sprengel favors Shimano Terez rods with Talica 25 II two-speed reels.
“You can use lighter, but we actually use these for trolling, chunking and jigging,” he says. “This reduces the number of setups we need to bring offshore.”
He spools up with 80-pound PowerPro Hollow Ace and ties a spider hitch in the terminal end of his main line. Then he attaches a working leader. At the bitter end, tie on a No. 3 Spro in-line swivel, then about 10 feet of fluorocarbon leader testing 60 to 80 pounds. Sprengel uses 6/0 to 10/0 Gamakatsu HD live-bait hooks, depending on the fish size.
Capt. Dave Bender keeps one flat line rigged with a sardine and no weight about 100 yards out. That one usually gets bit first. Another rod is outfitted with a balloon about 40 feet out, rigged with an 8- to 20-ounce egg sinker, depending on the current. Three other lines cover the water column, set at 60, 80 and 100 feet of water.
In total, anglers have shots at a wealth of tunas, plus swordfish and billfish. Sprengel prefers his home waters to all others in fall, as he’s not afraid to tell you. Plus, there’s one fish that all tuna fishermen dream of in this neck of the woods: the bigeye tuna. Anglers tell stories of monsters they couldn’t stop in the dead of night — they could have been bigeyes.
“Bigeyes are the most powerful fish out there,” says Sprengel. “They usually hit during the early morning or late evening. Anyone who brings one back to the dock deserves respect.” There’s nothing like a power workout from one of the best-tasting fish in salt.
About the Experts
Capt. Dave Bender has been fishing East Coast offshore canyons for tuna, billfish and swordfish for the past 15 years. Bender and Capt. Jimmy Gahm run Jenny Lee Sportfishing (jennyleesportfishing.com) out of Brielle, New Jersey.
Capt. Jack Sprengel has been fishing the waters of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard for nearly 20 years, specializing in offshore big-game tactics. Sprengel and Capt. Louis James DeFusco operate East Coast Charters (eastcoastchartersri.com) out of Warwick, Rhode Island.
Al McGlashan is a fishing photographer based out of Sydney, Australia, who hosts the Big Fish Small Boats series. His favorite fish is tuna, and he’s on the water most days fishing, filming or working with scientists to study them. Visit his website at almcglashan.com.